The last time she had been to Glasgow, it was dull and rained grey. The student digs were cold, damp and generally miserable. Her then-boyfriend insisted she came up for his finals week. There had been a lot of drinking and then some rather inconsequential groping on a single bed. A flatmate coming into the room during this unfulfilling episode foretold the end of the relationship.
But now she was back twenty years later, still alone and was already in a rush to leave.
The Hilton was neon bright and barely alive in the late evening, her flight had been delayed and she wanted a bath, well she didn’t really know what she wanted. An indeterminate European thin-faced girl on the front desk barely broke into a smile as took her credit card and exchanged it for an electronic key. Pulling her small suitcase, with a laptop bag over her shoulder, she padded along the corridor to her room. She was now hungry and wanted to have a quick sandwich, and yes a drink would work too.
The bar was empty but for two men who stared into their phones as they picked from club-sandwiches without noticing the droppings of salad that formed a litter of leaves at their legs. She ordered a large glass of white wine, pulled up a bar stool, opened her iPad and without much thought put her fingers into a bowl of nuts.
She hadn’t noticed a new arrival at the bar. Their fingers met in the salty almonds.
‘I’m so sorry’ she said not looking up and then heard a voice that resonated with a kind but granite Scotland lilt. She could smell a musty, not unpleasant perfume from him, reassuring and strong.
‘Nae bother, help yourself please,’ he said quietly and she felt him brush past her.
‘I’m to bed anyway, big day tomorrow.’
‘Well good luck,’ and stealing a glance she saw him walk confidently away, stopping at the lift and almost as in a dream, she found her self rushing towards him.
‘Your phone’ she said breathlessly and maybe the wine had gone to her hear for as the steel lift door closed she reached over and kissed him on the cheek.
‘That’s for good luck,’ she purred, pushing the phone into his back pocket.
A few hours later, she frantically tidied the room and finally slipped into the bed.
‘What was his name Gary, no, Graham, blast, and what was I thinking’ she murmured out loud and pushed her toes into the far edge of the cool cotton sheets, straining against the duvet cover. It was sheer bliss to be alone and her body molded into the expensive mattress.
She had washed his smell away, brushed her teeth until her gums bled and knew that sleep would come soon. Turning over, she looked at the digital clock and the unfamiliar bits on the side-table. The half-read pile of business papers, the wine glass with a lipstick stain and a cellophane packet that had been torn on one side. Staring at nothing, in particular, the pattern on the wallpaper looked like a tiger or was it a lion. She was so tired it did not matter really and with a feeling of shame but satisfaction closed her eyes.